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2:48 min| 122,116 views
Explore the benefits and drawbacks of giving birth in a hospital, at a birth center, or at home.
Source: Women's Health Stats & Facts, 2009. Publication of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Prepare for labor and delivery with our online birth class. See all 51 videos in this series.
Linda Murray: Where do women give birth? In hospitals, birth centers, and in their own homes. Can you guess how many births happen in a hospital?
Nearly all women in the United States give birth in a hospital shown here in blue. Of the 1 percent who give birth elsewhere, about two-thirds deliver at home, the yellow slice. And fewer than a third at a birth center, the tiny purple slice. The rest, a minuscule number not shown on this chart give birth in more unusual places like a car. These proportions have remained largely the same for the past two decades.
Let’s talk about the benefits and drawbacks of each place. The great thing about hospitals is that they’re equipped to handle whatever happens during delivery from c-sections to the most serious complications. They offer the most options for managing pain and are the only place where you can get strong pain medication like an epidural.
On the downside, hospitals typically offer less personalized care. And in a hospital it’s routine to get certain types of interventions like continuous fetal monitoring and IVs. These interventions are meant to help you and your baby, but they can have unwanted side effects. If you choose to give birth at a hospital, ask ahead of time about policies and services that are important to you. You might want to find out, for example, whether epidurals are available 24 hours a day, if you’ll need to be in bed during your labor, and whether your newborn can stay in your room with you.
Birth centers are an option for women with a low-risk pregnancy who don’t plan to get an epidural. Accredited birth centers offer low-tech home-like settings where you can move freely during your labor and skip common medical interventions like IVs and continuous fetal monitoring. Some mild pain medications may be available, but you won’t be able to get an epidural. A midwife will provide personal attention throughout your labor and strong support for a drug-free birth, if that’s what you want. In case of unexpected complications, there’s a doctor on call and arrangements with a backup hospital. That’s where you’d be taken if you needed an induction or a c-section. If you’re interested in delivering at a birth center, find out whether there’s one near you, since many communities don’t have one.
Home birth is another option for women with a low-risk pregnancy who don’t want to use pain medication. Giving birth at home can be as safe as delivering in a hospital if you’re at low risk for complications, your caregivers are skilled and experienced, and you have a solid backup plan for getting to a hospital if you need to. You won’t have the option of pain medication, but you’ll labor in comfortable surroundings with the greatest control over your experience.